Ah, the trade deadline -- a time for all the contenders to outmaneuver each other on their road to Fantasy glory while all the non-contenders pretty much just stay out of their way.
Except in a keeper league. In a keeper league, the deadline matters to everybody.
Even those who fall out of the race -- which I admit I did in my keeper league, painful as it may be. Hey, don't laugh. I drafted Travis Hafner and Carlos Pena for my starting lineup and Rafael Soriano and Manny Corpas for my bullpen (in a league that counts saves 10 points each, no less), and three of my four keepers -- Alex Rodriguez, Jimmy Rollins and Erik Bedard -- got injured right away.
Yeah, you could say I'm just making excuses. But so did Hank Steinbrenner, and everyone loves him now.
Anyway, I fought the good fight, swung a few deals along the way, and made up some serious ground in the standings. But with the trade deadline approaching Saturday and my team four games behind the last playoff team with only four weeks remaining, I decided to cash in my chips and play for next year. Otherwise, I'd have to go 4-0 and count on the other guy to go 0-4, and I'm already losing this week.
I'd never been a seller at the trade deadline before -- hey, you don't get this job by rebuilding -- but the goal seemed pretty simple to me: stock up on as many first-rounders as I could. Keep in mind I play in a Head-to-Head league with four keepers, no penalties. I don't lose draft picks or auction dollars for keeping players. I just keep the four guys I want most, no strings attached.
I already had A-Rod, who I still project as the No. 1 overall player next year. Why not go after the guys I project second and third? Why not target Hanley Ramirez and Chase Utley? Both would probably go in the first round no matter what positions they played, and they happen to play two of the weakest positions in Fantasy.
I made Utley my No. 1 priority because I already had Rollins, so if I couldn't get Ramirez, I could rest easy knowing I still had an elite Fantasy shortstop. And Utley just so happened to belong to a contender. What luck.
Originally, I offered the contender -- we'll call him Contender A -- Brandon Phillips (who I acquired two weeks earlier just in case I faced this scenario), Chipper Jones and A.J. Burnett for Utley. He insisted on me adding Brian Wilson to the deal, which made no difference to me, but I warned him the other contenders might think a 4-for-1 trade crossed the line of "preserving competitive balance." Ultimately, we came to this agreement:
2B Chase Utley
RP Trevor Hoffman
SP Manny Parra
OF Jay Bruce
Contender A got:
2B Brandon Phillips
3B Chipper Jones
SP A.J. Burnett
RP Brian Wilson
I don't think he even had to give me quite as much as he did, but whatever. I've never known myself to ask for less when someone makes me an offer. Old habits, I guess.
About this time, I noticed another owner in the same position as me make a couple moves to fortify his team for next season. He didn't aim quite as high, though. He still traded with contenders -- and two different contenders than the one who traded me Utley -- but he targeted sure-fire keepers who recently suffered season-ending injuries.
Rebuilder A got:
OF Carl Crawford
Contender B got:
SP Roy Oswalt
Contender B didn't really need a pitcher, but obviously Oswalt stands to help him more this year than Crawford would have, considering the latter will miss the rest of the season following hand surgery. Crawford had lost a bit of his luster as a keeper anyway, though I still expect him to go in the first four rounds next season.
Rebuilder A got:
OF Carlos N. Lee
Contender C got:
OF Matt Kemp
Obviously, no contender would accept this trade under normal circumstances, but Lee (wrist) doesn't stand to help Contender C for the rest of the season. With all the other contenders making moves, he kind of had to make one too.
And you have to love that ripple effect -- the fact that three contenders gave up significant building blocks without really gaining ground on each other. Hooray for no collusion.
So with Utley in hand, I looked to require Ramirez, who belonged to another non-contender. That made it tougher. I had to somehow give him something for the future while still taking something for the future.
Fortunately, after the Utley trade, my potential keepers looked as follows: A-Rod (duh), Utley (duh), Josh Hamilton, Carlos Quentin, Lance Berkman and Russell Martin. Notice a problem? I had way too many. Meanwhile, the guy who owned Ramirez had Ramirez (duh), Mark Teixeira and ... um, Edinson Volquez? Justin Verlander?
Aw, this is like taking candy from a baby.
SS Hanley Ramirez
Rebuilder A got:
OF Josh Hamilton
SS Jimmy Rollins
C Russell Martin
It looks ridiculous. In a vacuum, I gave up too much, but this trade didn't happen in a vacuum. I had too many keepers, and the other guy didn't have enough. So I gave him some of my excess for an even better keeper. And no one else in the league has any right to complain about his haul because he's out of contention. It's not like I gave him the pieces he needs to go surging into the playoffs.
And now I get to keep A-Rod, Utley and Ramirez. Scary. As for that fourth keeper, I haven't decided yet. I'll probably keep Quentin, but I could always plug in Berkman if any of the other four suffer a Joel Zumaya-like offseason mishap, God forbid.
Man, falling out of contention is fun. If I don't win the league next year, I'll cry little girl tears.
That's all for now.